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National Urban League Trains African Americans for Corporate Boards

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(NNPA) What do American Express, Merck, Xerox, Darden Restaurants, and Citibank have in common? All are Fortune 500 companies headed by African Americans: Ken Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express; Ken Frazier, President and CEO of Merck; Ursula Burns, Chairwoman and CEO of Xerox – the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company; Clarence Otis, President and CEO of Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden; and Dick Parsons, former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, Inc., now Chairman of Citibank.

That is an impressive line-up of corporate titans. But, African Americans still represent a miniscule fraction of board-level corporate leadership in America. The National Urban League, in partnership with Advance America, has established a new training program to give other qualified African Americans the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

According to a 2009 study by the non-profit Executive Leadership Council, the percentage of African Americans filling Fortune 500 board seats actually declined from 2004 to 2008. It now stands at a meager seven percent, despite the fact that Blacks now comprise 13 percent of the population.

This lack of representation has negative consequences for consumers and corporate America. African American voices and perspectives are needed on corporate boards to ensure that business decisions affecting Black America are both responsible and sensitive to the needs of our communities. And, with growing economic clout of African American consumers, it is just plain good business sense for public companies to promote inclusion and diversity up and down the corporate ladder. We know that companies with board members reflective of the gender and ethnic diversity of the consumers they serve generally produce higher profits and greater value for their shareholders.

Thanks to the efforts of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act included an amendment addressing the need for greater diversity in the workforce of government contractors with the establishment of a new Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. In October, the National Urban League and Advance America, the nation’s leading provider of cash advance services, took it one step further by teaming up to address the serious under-representation of African Americans on various NYSE and NASDAQ boards of directors.

Clint Allen, Founder and President of the Corporate Directors Group, an organization of nearly 1100 public company board members, and which offers the only professional director certification said, "this group of seven outstanding National Urban League director candidates completed a minimum of thirty hours of education including public company director governance, regulation and strategy. They are prepared to serve a public company as professional and competent board members."

The goal of our Director Inclusion Initiative is to equip qualified professionals with the tools and training they need to be successful in the boardroom.

Advance America Board Chairman Billy Webster said his company “is honored to partner with the National Urban League in this endeavor to empower dozens of new executives. As a board chairman, I know that this initiative offers some of the best and brightest young professionals an opportunity to maximize their potential in the public company structure, while also enhancing the business capabilities of the companies they will serve.”

We agree. There is a growing pool of qualified African Americans ready to take their place at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. The Director Inclusion Initiative is a long overdue opportunity that will give them that chance.

Marc H. Morial is the President and CEO of the National Urban League.

Mayor Marion Barry is Right on Educational Reform

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By Gary L. Flowers –

“All public schools should be ‘choice’, and students should be ‘chosen’”

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

(NNPA) I read with affirmative agreement the opinion of Marion Barry published in the Washington Post on Sunday, April 10, 2011, entitled “School reform has passed low-income neighborhoods by”.

After all, Mr. Barry has strong educational credentials on which to base his opinion. Prior to his distinguished political career as mayor of Washington D.C.—and revitalizing the nation’s capital in economic development—he was a grade-A scholar and student leader. In 1959, Barry was the top chemistry student in his home state of Mississippi, and later a chemistry major at Fisk University. As a student leader, Mr. Barry was selected to attend Boy’s Nation, where he met political geniuses in persona of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Mayor Willie Brown. The three in their own right would contribute mightily to educational reform in Illinois, California, in particular, and the entire nation in general.

I concur with Mayor Barry’s philosophy that the most educationally needy public school districts in America should receive the most funding. We can look no further than the example of water seeping through the cracks of a leaky wall. Wise is the repairer who addresses the portions of the wall reflects breaches. The same is true for educational reform. For starters, school districts in the most need should receive the most money. In the nation’s capital and throughout America “school reform” has by-passed the poor.

Instead, in many public school neighborhoods with the highest per capita income receive the most funding based on a property real estate formula. Such formulas are inherently weighted to the wealthy. For example, the so-called school reform plan proposed by former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and former school Chancellor Michelle Rhee put low-income neighborhoods in the back of the proverbial funding class. For example, $225 million dollars in D.C. went to wealthy wards, while only $93 million was received in poorer wards.

To add insult to injury, Fenty and Rhee promoted private corporations (Wall Mart etc.) to provide funding for charter schools in Washington on the flimsy legal distinction that charter schools are technically public schools. Not really. Charter schools have investors who seek a return on their financial investment. When Mr. Barry and those of us who “smelled a rat” voted to unseat Adrian Fenty (and thus Michelle Rhee) Wal-Mart threatened to retract its funding offer to the D.C. public schools unless the new mayor, Vincent Gray, retained Michelle Rhee. Michelle Rhee’s contract was not renewed and now she has been hired by the New Jersey Department of Education with the aid Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s private money. The irritating irony is that the disparity of funding and the wooing of private dollars for public education in Washington, D.C. have taken place under the nose of the United States Department of Education.

Nationally, the federal government only contributes 9% of all funding for public education in America. Nearly every industrial country around the world fully funds its public school system except the United States. America cannot educationally compete with world powers such as China and India without a fully funded public school system.

Mr. Barry makes a compelling point that there effective school reform should the establishment and development of high quality schools in every neighborhood, to include a set of goals and programs aimed at greatly reducing truancy and dropouts while increasing graduation rates.

Yet, I believe in even more structural educational reform in the United States. Congress should enact a Constitutional Amendment to make an equal and high quality education an individual right of all children, regardless of resources (via existing legislation sponsored by Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. [D-IL] and articulated in his book, A More Perfect Union). Furthermore, the White House and Congress should at least support and enact, respectively, significantly raising the percentage of federal funding for public education. Both are critical in ensuring equal educational opportunity for every American student.

Gary L. Flowers is the Executive Director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

It is Time to End the Slush in Major College Sports

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(NNPA) It is not in all collegiate sports. Wrestling, hockey, track, lacrosse, etc. are not activities that involve illegal payment activity to athletes. Football and basketball are the two sports that involve the infamous “slush funds”. Currently, schools like Auburn, USC and Ohio St. are under suspension and/or investigation for transgressions involving student athletes and the athletic office. It appears to be just as rampant today as it was when I played football at the University of Wisconsin. It is sick and needs to be eradicated.

It evolved after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Schools could no longer discriminate against Black athletes. The smart coaches soon realized that not only was it the law it made a lot of good sense. Black athletes can jump higher, run faster, and hit harder than White athletes. That is not a racial statement but a biological fact. You cannot win a conference title, national championship or enjoy television revenues without a good sampling of Black athletes. At the same time television was going national and ad revenue was becoming immense. College basketball and football have become big business – a $4 billion business. Those with the best coaches and best athletes will reap serious money. Enough money to fund the other sports programs, build new stadiums and start notable endowments.

Recruiting great talent is paramount. Thus, enters the cheating. It was in full swing when colleges started recruiting me and my homies for football and basketball. Money handshakes, envelopes passed to us or our parents were becoming the norm back in the late 1960s. The predominance of schools did this and Arizona State University was probably the “slut” of them all. My cousin, an all American running back went there on a recruiting trip. He was not met at the Phoenix airport by a coach or athlete but by a prostitute driving a red corvette. She took him to a drive thru restaurant, got them burgers and milkshakes and then drove to a drive in theater. It was there in the passenger seat of the corvette that she took off her skirt and saddled his lap for wild sex. The next morning the assistant coach met him for breakfast and broke out a big smile and said “do you like the way ASU treats its athletes?”

We were having a ball - a different recruiting trip each weekend replete with cash money, big promises, cute chicks and notoriety by our local newspapers. The recruiting phase was the most fun. California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Arizona, etc. made a guy like me feel greatly wanted and special. I chose the Wisconsin Badgers and they took good care of me in many ways. My cousin decided to get real religious about this and resolved he would only go to a school that wasn’t trying to offer slush to him. He ended up going to Stanford. When he announced this to the Arizona State recruiter he was soon presented a Letter of Intent from ASU with 10 one hundred dollar bills next to it. $1,000 back in 1968 was a lot of money. Still, my cousin stood his ground and went to goody, goody Stanford. He became a collegiate all American and finished with his masters degree.

There were good honest coaches also. Sadly, they weren’t at the University of Wisconsin during this time. Ohio State had the great Woodrow “Woody” Hayes. He became terribly upset that Michigan St. was winning Big 10 titles and cheating at the same time. The image of poor Bubba Smith driving on campus with a new Buick Riviera and rumors of Coach Duffy Daugherty having a safe in his office for money distribution to his football greats was intolerable. Woody went after Michigan State, At the same time a Woody Hayes disciple, Bo Schembechler, became the coach of the University of Michigan. He won the Big 10 conference his rookie year, 1969, and he did it cleanly. After a football game, the players of both teams meet and talk about the hometown, high school days with the friends from the other team. We asked the Michigan guys how did they like their new coach. They said, “He’s real good but he took away our slush”. What!!! We all thought that was terrible.

Today, college sports need more Woody Hayes and Bo’s. It has gotten out of hand and the big problem is that these athletes like me and my cousin come from poor families with little to no resources. When a financial situation arises, they can help out the family or themselves by athletic office or alumni intervention – financial discretions. Each basketball and football player should receive a salary. If they were paid $30 -$40 thousand each year they wouldn’t be at the “trough” trying to get fast cash. That would probably end the cheating and the tolerance of what occurs today.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org www.twitter.com/nationalbcc

NNPA and NAACP Vow to Work Closer Together

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Recently there was an issue between the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and the NAACP.

NNPA member publishers had become upset when they discovered that the NAACP had inserted multi-page Viewer’s Guide advertising for its 42nd Image Awards in several markets throughout the US, to the exclusion of African- American newspapers. Upon being informed of this “mis-step,” Chairman, Danny Bakewell called NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous and suggested a meeting to discuss the issue.

NNPA publishers said they felt righteous indignation with the NAACP, as they viewed their actions as being contrary to their joint historical struggles. Since the inception of the Black Press and some 82 years later when the NAACP was born, the two had partnered unconditionally in the fight for freedom and equality.

Consequently, Bakewell invited NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous to attend an NNPA Board of Directors meeting in Washington, DC, to explain his actions. The meeting proved fruitful and initiated renewed commitments by each association to work closer together.

During the meeting NAACP President Ben Jealous said: “I am recommitting the NAACP to advocate for increased ad dollars and support for the Black Press. There is a long and storied history between the Black Press and the NAACP. I, like many of my predecessors, including WEB Dubois and Roy Wilkins, emerged from the Black Press. As an investigative reporter and editor for the Jackson Advocate—the most frequently firebombed Black community newspaper in the country—and former Executive Director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the mission and voice of the Black Press is something I personally hold in the highest regard. The NAACP and NNPA share the same mission: the liberation of our people. The Black Press is our voice and the NAACP is a voice for the Black Press. Together we can be a mighty force to speak truth to power.”

NNPA Chairman Danny Bakewell said that he appreciates the frank dialogue between the two groups, as it presents a better understanding of their respective operating procedures, one that will prevent any such “mis-step” in the future.

Bakewell continued, “The 200-member NNPA has always supported and will continue to give voice to NAACP efforts--with or without advertising support.

We give credit to the NAACP for their activities that create interesting copy and graphics. Publication of these events has kept the Black communities aware of the NAACP's actions and leadership team. The circumstance that initially brought us together ultimately proved to be a reminder of the interconnection of our missions, and our groups are closer today as a result. We will forge ahead with a new and profound commitment to work together.” Bakewell added, “I commend President Jealous for his honesty and his apology to the NNPA publishers.

We are brothers in the struggle against racial injustices, and as the NAACP fights the battles in the courts, it is our mission as the Black Press to illuminate the issues and keep our people informed.”

Christopher Fleming of the NAACP and Walter Smith of the NNPA authored this article.

When the Federal Government Embraces a Gangster Corporation

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(NNPA) The Construction Industry has a bad reputation. That reputation is well earned as we are constantly being informed of fraud, cost overruns, and safety violations related to big and small construction projects at a relentless and never ending rate. So, it was apropos when the federal government along with the State of New York decided to come up with a crime busting taskforce aimed at the construction activity within the region. They knew they were going after the five Mafia families but they also ended up with a big catch outside the typical organized crime membership. They took the “scalp” of the gigantic firm known as Tutor Perini.

The taskforce was comprised of members from Department of Justice, IRS, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of State Inspector General, and U.S. Department of Labor and New York City of Transportation. According to the New York U.S. Attorney’s office: “Following a four-week trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn yesterday (March 9, 2011) found Zohrab B. Marashlian, the former president of Perini Corp.’s Civil Division, an international construction services corporation, guilty of fraud and conspiracy to launder money. The charges arose out of Marashlian’s false representation to New York government agencies that Disadvantaged Business Entities (DBE’s) were performing work in connection with major public works contracts, when, in reality, Marashlian had non-disadvantaged businesses favored by Perini Corp. do the work.” Tutor Perini paid Marashlian $14 million in salary while all this was going on. Two days before Marashlian was to receive a multi-year prison sentence he committed suicide. A fellow employee is currently doing a long prison term for the same case.

Perini has been caught doing such things over and over again. They are absolutely ridiculous in California projects. It is like DBE fronting is a part of its business model. Overall, fraud appears to be a part of that model also. According to the Seattle News, some of the Perini headlines read: “In February, Tutor-Saliba and Perini agreed to pay $19 million to settle racketeering and fraud allegations in a San Francisco airport project.” “In 2004, Perini agreed to pay the federal government $998,500 to settle fraud claims in the construction of an embassy building in Venezuela.” “The companies are embroiled in an 11 year legal battle over $16 million in extra costs on a Los Angeles subway job.” “Perini sued for more than $170 million in cost overruns on three New York City projects during the 1990s before settling for about $22 million.”

Any Black-owned firm doing any of the above would be permanently banned from doing anymore federal contracting. But Perini? Oh no, it has actually grown exponentially in the government contracting field. How can this be? Well, the principal owner of Tutor Perini is Richard Blum, the husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – CA) who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees the U.S. Department of Defense. Since joining the U.S. Senate, Senator Feinstein and her husband have enjoyed billions of dollars in defense contracts. She voted for the Afghanistan War and their company is rolling in contracts directly related to the war right now. She voted for the Iraq war and their company has been rolling in Iraqi contracts ever since. American soldiers die and the Senator and her husband prosper handsomely and with reckless abandon. It got so ridiculous that when she became the Chair of the Armed Services Committee even her counterparts said that’s enough! It is bad enough that all this is apparent but do you have to be “Chair” while all this is going on? So, she stepped down from her Chair seat, but is still on the committee and the dollars continue to roll in at an ever growing pace.

She voted for the Stimulus Bill and Perini was showered with more federally funded contracts. President Obama even participated in this one. He kicked off the highway contracts from his Stimulus Bill with a press conference at a highway construction site in Virginia. There he was showing the world what the Stimulus money was doing in kicking off this major highway project. The contractor he put on display was Cherry Hill Construction. Who owns Cherry Hill Construction? Tutor Perini! There is just no shame.

Wait, it gets worse. The Minority Business Development Agency (U.S. Department of Commerce) has organized a public relations program that touts “MBDA Unveils First U.S. Global Construction Program for Minority-Owned Firms”. That sounds incredibly good. Incredible is the correct term as the instructor of the program is none other than Tutor Perini. Can you believe it! Sending minority firms for instruction by Tutor Perini is like sending maidens to a brothel – something real bad is going to happen. The above is certainly our business as every penny of the abuse and waste is our tax money. We need to clean this up.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org www.twitter.com/nationalbcc

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